Today’s million dollar question: Who is Pope Francis?
I refer to our Holy Father as a Holy Catholic Enigma.
Hope all is well on this day after “Pope Francis’ 61st Anniversary of his Conversion & Call to Religious Life”. Yes, it occurred in Buenos Aires, Argentina on the Feast Day of St. Matthew (September 21st, 1953), some 61 years ago, when a troubled, 16 year old Jorge Mario Bergoglio walked into church for confession. The rest is history…and, the rest is a bit confusing and perplexing – especially the last year year and a half of his 77 years here on earth.
Pope Francis has been at it for 18 months now, as our Holy Father – CEO of 1.2 billion Catholics world-wide. He hit the Vatican ground running on that Feast Day of St. Joseph (March 19th, 2013), as he took the baton from our beloved Pope Benedict XVI Emeritus, who thought it was wiser to resign from his post at age 85, allowing the younger cardinal from Buenos Aires to take it from there. First time we have seen that in the Vatican in 600 years, since Pope Gregory XII resigned in 1415. Wise move from a very wise retiring pope, who gave it his all in his nearly 8 years as our 265th pontiff.
And, if we were to take a national survey today – 61 years after Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s confession & conversion – we would probably see a wide assortment of answers when asked that million dollar question: “Who is Pope Francis”?
Friends: Where does one begin? How does one describe what you have seen, heard and watched from Pope Francis in his short, 18 month tenure so far? Why is it that this pope has caught the attention of billions (as in B) all over the world, as in a stark contrast to his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who quietly took over after Pope John Paul II’s incredible 27 years? Is it because Pope Francis was elected so quickly by the 121 cardinals and because it was after the resignation of a pope, which we have not seen in 6 centuries? Is it because this pope is from the Americas – South America – of all places? Is it because he has a “chip on his shoulders” and wants to embrace the entire world to the religion of Catholicism like it was meant to be – just like Jesus ordained it to be over 2,000 years ago?
Or is it because this is what GOD ordained and what GOD considers part of the Big Plan? If I had a dollar for every time I have been asked “Willy, what is your take on Pope Francis”, I would be able to buy new text books for all 100 Catholic dioceses in this country who unforgivably adopted the Curse of Common Core and I would get the curse out of every one of those schools immediately.
Friends: Keep in mind that every time Pope Francis answers a question from the media, it is interpreted hundreds of different ways in hundreds of different languages. And, that is why the secular, liberal media love this guy. They get to twist & turn every one of his words and they, for some reason, always take his comments way out of context. That is one reason why he was voted “Person of the Year” last year and why he appeared on the front cover of “Rolling Stone” magazine…not “Roll away the Stone” magazine…The secular media see Pope Francis as a rock star…but, millions of faithful, die-hard Catholics all over the world do not.
And, that is where it gets sticky, confusing, perplexing, frustrating, and some times, down right excruciating. The “old school” Catholics don’t care for the pope being named Person of the Year. They don’t read Rolling Stone magazine. But, they do read the interviews on the pope. They do read his comments on abortion, contraception, same sex marriage and wealth vs. poverty. They saw him wed 20 different couples at St. Peter’s Basilica two Sundays ago (hearing that several of those couples had lived together and a few had babies out of wedlock). And, the majority of people in this country, alone, still do not know what to make of his ever-famous quote given 3,000 feet up in the air on his return trip from Rio de Janeiro after World Youth Day when our Holy Father uttered his “famous last 5 words”:
WHOM AM I TO JUDGE?
So, with all this being said and with this “enigma-laced” question above still dangling for everybody to interpret – “Who is Pope Francis” – what do we make of all this? Like I told the Palm Beach Post almost a year ago when they interviewed me: “Pope Francis is doing a ‘Global Open House’, where he is inviting EVERYBODY to the table – the haters, the sinners, the homosexuals, the atheists, the outcasts, etc., and is simply getting their attention to be able to sit them all down at one time in about another year and show them what Catholicism teaches – what the Holy Catholic Church truly teaches”…I pray that I am right.
This has been my prayer ever since I heard his interview when he told the reporters “Who am I to Judge”? Believe me, friends, those 5 words do not sit well with me because like I said last year in that same interview – they can be interpreted a million different ways…and, they have been. It sent out mixed messages and truly confused the Catholic faithful. The pope opened up more than a can of worms when he uttered those 5 simple words and many of the Catholic die-hards lost it about then. And, many left the Church and refuse to come back.
And, while Catholic lay evangelists like Matthew Kelly, Dr. Scott Hahn and Tom Peterson are trying their best in “Calling Catholics Back Home”, damage has been done and those “old school” Catholics who were not patient enough to see when Pope Francis is going to elaborate on all of these “new school” expressions (not Catholic doctrine or teachings), may have left prematurely as the Church has lost numerous patrons who said they had seen enough.
And, Catholics are stubborn by nature…So, to ease your minds, please take a good look at this article below, which makes a ton of sense when speaking about Pope Francis. It honestly allowed me to relax a bit and not be so impatient with the pope. It gave me a different perspective on the pope’s perspective. The sections on “personal encounters” and “forgiveness” says a lot about our Holy Father and gives you the sense that he truly does believe in compassion and embracing even those who transgress us. Deep down, I honestly believe that the pope is simply trying to follow in the footsteps of our Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ, but, he does add a bit of flair and drama to his evangelization and preaching, thus, keeping everybody honest and a bit off balance…some more than others.
Enigma: Look it up on Google and see if it says “Pope Francis” under synonyms…He is like the Holy Rosary…a mystery to so many Catholics…a joyful one, though.
September 18, 2014
All eyes are on Pope Francis.
People around the world are watching what he is saying and doing and trying to understand what it means.
A friend called today from Switzerland: “What do you make of this alleged ‘irritation’ of the Pope over the new book defending traditional Catholic teaching on marriage?” he asked. “And his allegedly asking Cardinal Mueller not promote the book? What’s going on?”
Another friend emailed from New York. He had just spoken with an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi who is well-known in the pro-life movement. “I have been talking to a mutual friend — Rabbi Yehuda Levin, who spoke at the March for Life for several decades. He is a strong supporter of the Catholic Church’s stand against abortion, and for traditional man-woman marriage, etc. He is a spokesman for the Rabbinical Alliance of more than 800 Orthodox Rabbis. He feels that if the Church waffles or retreats on abortion or homosexuality or marriage at the upcoming Synod, this will have an adverse effect on Orthodox Judaism and other strong family religions. He is very concerned about the upcoming Synod.”
And another friend wrote, in response to my email of yesterday: “Excellent run down on the issue and cardinals involved. Prelates encouraging or advocating change are gradually ruining the authentic true Catholic Faith. The Roman Catholic Church is not supposed to be a ‘feel good’ Church, waxing and waning to current social issues. It is tragic, that the once prestigious Roman Catholic Church, is now dysfunctional, divided, depleted, contentious and infiltrated.”
And another reader wrote: “Many thanks — was hoping for more clarification on this issue! Will watch this space. Any comment on Cardinal Burke’s new job?” (Note: There have been unconfirmed reports that Pope Francis has decided to move the American Cardinal Raymond Burke from his post in the Roman Curia, as head of the Apostolic Signatura, to a post outside the Curia, as head of the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta: see the report on this by Sandro Magister, the Italian Vaticanist, at link).
So many Catholics, and some Orthodox Jewish rabbis, in many countries around the world, are watching Pope Francis, and wondering what he is doing, and what he will do next…
Pope Francis, I think, is attempting to make a slight adjustment in the Church’s pastoral focus.
Not to change Church doctrine, but to review and reform how the Church deals with, and cares for, fallen human beings.
This attempt is rooted in both personal experience, and in theological conviction.
Francis is persuaded there is a need to reach out to suffering, wounded, disoriented sinners in part because of a personal experience.
He had a personal, life-changing experience, a mystical experience, of God’s forgiveness of his sin.
It came after he went to confession, at the age of 16, in a church in Buenos Aires.
He has even told us the date: on September 21, 1953 — the Feast of St. Matthew (for this reason, Francis is fascinated by the painting of Caravaggio called The Calling of St. Matthew in the Church of St. Louis of the French near Piazza Navona in Rome; in past years, he often would go there when visiting Rome). This is how the Vatican put it in a biographical sketch published at the time of the Pope’s election last year: “Following a confession, he felt his heart touched and sensed the descent of the mercy of God, who with a look of tender love, called him to the religious life, following the example of St. Ignatius of Loyola.” In these few, spare words, we are told of an experience which transformed the life of young Jorge Mario Bergoglio. He felt his heart “touched” and he “sensed” the “descent of the mercy of God.” He felt, “in a very special way,” the “loving presence of God in his life.”
This experience is part of the reason the Francis wishes to deal with human frailty and sin, not through a restatement of why the sinner is in sin, or in a recitation of the Church’s judgment that the sinner’s choices and actions are sinful, but with mercy, with forgiveness, and so, with an opening out to new life.
There are also theological convictions at the base of Francis’ vision for the pastoral care of Christians — and for all human beings.
Francis is persuaded that the Church is a Mother, that the Church nourishes and protects and supports her children.
He is persuaded that the Lord Jesus, Founder of the Church, still present in the Church, in the Eucharist, in His Word, in his ministers and disciples, and in the love of the members of the Christian community for one another, wishes — as He did when He walked on this earth — to pardon sinners, to forgive them and heal them, not to condemn them and cast them out.
Francis believes in the “personal encounter” — with persons, with a “Mother”… a “Father”… a “Brother” who walks beside us, with us.
And he regards a certain type of “moralism,” which can seem to set laws and precepts and anathemas above such a “walking with,” as something to be avoided, a possible trap for believers.
He doesn’t want to “change the rules” about what is good and evil. Rather, he wishes to forgive those who transgress those rules, and repent, and seek forgiveness.
And he senses that he must privilege this attitude, and this action, or he may lose many souls, who will, sadly, perhaps in despair, turn aside from the way of the Christian faith, unless the Church reaches out to them with arms to embrace and forgive.
And precisely today, Francis spoke about this very personal vision of human life, human morality, and human sin, in his morning homily at Mass in the chapel at his residence, the Domus Santa Marta.
In his homily at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis said that it is precisely in one’s sins where one meets Jesus. (Here is a link to a Rome Reports video of parts of the homily:
The Pope said that in recognizing our sins, we are able to experience Christ’s loving forgiveness. He said: “This is why the ability to acknowledge our own sins, to acknowledge our misery, to acknowledge what we are and what we are capable of doing or have done, is the very door that opens us to the Lord’s caress, His forgiveness, to His Word ‘Go in peace, your faith has saved you!” The Pope concluded his homily saying that those who feel themselves sinners open their hearts in confession and experience the mercy of God.
Vatican Radio provided these further excerpts: “He (Christ) only says the word salvation — ‘Your faith has saved you’ — to the woman, who is a sinner.
“And he says it because she was able to weep for her sins, to confess her sins, to say ‘I am a sinner’, and admit it to herself.
“He doesn’t say the same to those people, who were not bad people: they simply did not believe themselves to be sinners.
“Other people were sinners: the tax collectors, prostitutes… These were the sinners. Jesus says this word — ‘You are saved, you are safe’ — only to those who open their hearts and acknowledge that they are sinners.
“Salvation only enters our hearts when we open them to the truth of our sins.”
“This is why the ability to acknowledge our own sins, to acknowledge our misery, to acknowledge what we are and what we are capable of doing or have done is the very door that opens us to the Lord’s caress, His forgiveness, to His Word ‘Go in peace, your faith has saved you!’, because you were brave, you were brave enough to open your heart to the only One who can save you.”
One can see clearly in these words the influence of the Pope’s personal experience of September 21, 1953, which continues to shape his understanding of how he should deal, as Pope, with the issue of moral evil and sin, and with the reality of God’s loving mercy which can forgive such sin.